As a municipal and planning lawyer in Ontario I am often asked
by real estate counsel what an "Occupancy Permit" or
"Certificate of Occupancy" is, whether they are the same
thing, and how they work. This is a general short answer to those
questions for quick reference.
An Occupancy Permit or Partial Occupancy Permit indicates
compliance with the Ontario Building Code. In order for
occupancy of certain buildings to be permitted following new
construction pursuant to Section 11 the Building Code Act,
the building must meet a list of minimum requirements set out in
the Ontario Building Code1:
Occupancy or use after
completion 11.(1)Except as authorized by the building code,
a person shall not occupy or use a building or part of a building
that is newly erected or installed or permit it to be occupied or
used until the requirements set out in this section are
Some municipalities issue a formal "Occupancy Permit"
indicating that the building complies with this provision. Some
municipalities do not issue a formal "Occupancy Permit"
and merely deem one of the final building permit inspections to be
the "occupancy inspection" after which the building is
said to comply with Section 11 and be safe for occupancy.
Most or all municipalities in Ontario, whether or not they issue
formal "Occupancy Permits", issue "Partial Occupancy
Permits." They may be issued by the municipality where, for
example, a building is under construction and only the parts of the
building specified meet the Building Code occupancy
requirements. It is routine for Partial Occupancy Permits to be
issued for the commercial space only while the residential portion
of the building remains under construction, or for specific
residential floors as construction progresses upwards.
Certificate of Occupancy
A Certificate of Occupancy indicates compliance with zoning, in
particular that the proposed occupancy is a permitted use. Section
34(6) of the Planning Act allows municipalities to require
Certificates of Occupancy:
Certificates of occupancy (6)A by-law passed under this section may
provide for the issue of certificates of occupancy without which no
change may be made in the type of use of any land covered by the
by-law or of any building or structure on any such land, but no
such certificate shall be refused if the proposed use is not
prohibited by the by-law.
Confusingly, Certificates of Occupancy may from time to time
also be referred to as "Occupancy Permits" by municipal
staff or some real estate counsel who are unfamiliar with the
difference. They may also be referred to as Change of Use
Certificates, or incorporated into the municipality's Zoning
Certificate process, which certifies that the plans provided comply
with a bylaw passed pursuant to this section and other zoning
Zoning compliance is a prominent component of the Building
Code Act's applicable law requirements2 that
must be complied with as a prerequisite to obtaining a building
permit. Therefore, Certificate of Occupancy compliance questions
will most often arise when no building permit was necessary or
 Ontario Building Code, O. Reg. 332/12,
188.8.131.52 of Division C.
The Ontario Court of Appeal confirmed that courts will generally support and uphold decisions of condominium directors because they are better positioned than judges to make decisions pertaining to their buildings.
According to the city bylaws in Calgary, the grading of lots for new buildings must be done properly so that the water never flows toward the new building or any other nearby properties, but away from those buildings.
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